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X is for Xeric


Xeric is an adjective referring to an extremely dry habitat.  That would be where I live.  Our West Texas landscape consists primarily of range land dotted with green sage bushes, clumps of bright wildflowers, and fields that must be irrigated in order to produce successful crops.  Trees and open water are at a minimum. It is a long drive to a lake or river of reasonable size. I miss the beautiful green trees and lakes of Dakota where I grew up (but I do  not miss Winter that starts in late October and runs into April).

This year we have had no rain, no moisture to speak of.  Everything is tinder dry and wildfires are running rampant throughout the region. Last night our sky was hazy and the air was thick with the acrid smell of smoke being blown our direction by strong winds from a raging wildfire 150 miles to the south of us that has consumed over 200,000 acres and has yet to be fully contained.  The smoke burned our eyes and throats and made us aware of how bad it must be for those fighting the fire or fighting to save their property where the fire is burning.

We've had several smaller grass fires closer to home as well. A corner of the highway intersection we cross everyday had a large area of charred ground and burned mesquite one day last week when we returned home from work.  Thankfully, they got that one stopped before it went further. We live in fear of fire and the damage it could do if it headed in our direction, our house being surrounded by open pasture land with dry grass and weeds standing a foot or more tall.  Everything could be gone in an instant.  We pray for rain.

Spring equates to blowing wind in West Texas... and with it blowing dirt that darkens the sky and fills your eyes and mouth with grit. It sifts thru the car vents and the smallest cracks around windows and doors in the house, and covers everything with a layer of dirt. To wear white clothing or black clothing is a major mistake, as you will soon resemble "Pig Pen" from the Peanuts gang!  It is a  "white-glove" housekeeper's nightmare.  Thankfully, I gave up that obsession years ago. :-)

Because we live in such a dry climate, water is used conservatively.  Watering restrictions in the cities near us are common during the long, hot summer when temps reach a hundred degrees or more, sometimes for days on end.  I do not like the heat of summer; it doesn't like me either, it makes me sick.  I am so very thankful for my air-conditioned office, car, and home.  I wonder what it was like to live here before A/C was common.  The concept of an afternoon siesta during the hottest hours of the day, makes perfect sense to me. It is much nicer to be outside in early morning or late evening. 

Living in a xeric environment means landscaping that can survive the intense heat and drought. Much water is consumed in cities by people determined to maintain large, lush,  green lawns. This is wasteful.  Xeriscaping - landscaping with plants friendly to the desert climate - is becoming more common place and certainly is more ecologically responsible.  I would happily settle for a small 3x3 foot patch of grass where I could plant my feet, close my eyes, and remember what it was like as a child to walk barefoot in our back yard in the cool, damp grass. As it is, our two acres of weeds thrive nicely on neglect. Little by little, we'll be working on that. I suggested, only partly tongue-in-cheek, that we cover our acerage in gravel or concrete rather than attempt to get something to grow. That had a certain appeal until someone reminded me how much snakes like to sun themselves on warm rocks.  Rattlesnakes are very common here, and I definitely do not want to encourage visits to my yard.  Many friends have found them on their porches, in their garages, etc.  That would give me a heart attack!

One delightful accompaniment to our xeric surroundings is the family of roadrunners that live nearby.  They run across our yard and driveway frequently in the mornings, and have been known to leave a trail of tiny roadrunner footprints across the hood of my car!  They are the cutest things, looking so much like the cartoon version we are familiar with! Roadrunners are surprisingly unafraid of humans and can actually be tamed to eat out of the hand. Being carnivores, they love hamburger. Maybe that will be my next undertaking... pet roadrunners! :-)

2 comments:

  1. I've never heard heard that word before but it describes this particular climate very accurately. Summers were that for us, where I grew up, winters a little lusher.

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  2. Your Texas sounds somewhat similar to my country, or, much of it. I too have lived through drought and wildfires. We call them bushfires here. Dust storms and difficult soil and gardening. I remember laughing at someone who had rang up the local radio station years ago and requested that the farmers out west please come and retrieve their topsoil from the ladies loungeroom. Hahaha.
    And wildlife, welcome and otherwise.

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